Northern Ireland’s Ulster University has become the first British educational institution to sign up to and roll out IoT networking technology Sigfox.
The university was looking for a way to support the networking and sharing of information between devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops.
With the technology from French start-up Sigfox, the university is able to connect devices up to the cloud remotely and transfer valuable datasets for end-user evaluation by mobile devices.
Sigfox offers wide-range internet connectivity and low-power consumption.It can work alongside existing networks like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 4G.
In a recent evaluation of low-power, wide-area (LPWA) IoT deployments in Europe, conducted by research firm Analysis Mason, there were 85 commercial networks (that is, those run by operators as a service to others) announced in 2016, compared to 29 in 2015. Of these, 25 use NB-IoT, 25 use LoRa and 23 use Sigfox (up from 9 in 2015), with the remainder using other LPWA standards, including UNB Wireless, Ingenu, LTE-M, and Weightless.
The university has implemented Sigfox in order to save costs. Experts have installed a Sigfox base station at Ulster University’s Jordanstown campus. This process was supported by cross-border partners VT Networks and 2nr.
Led by the university’s School of Engineering, the base station equipment was supported by global operator WND Networks. Meanwhile, installation expertise came from Barrett Contracts.
Dr Philip Catherwood, who works at Ulster University’s Engineering Research Institute, hailed the installation of this technology as a key moment for the university.
“To give you an idea of the power of Sigfox, it takes only one base station to service an area the size of Belfast. As the first university in the UK to install a Sigfox base station, Ulster University is at the forefront of the Internet of Things revolution,” he said in a post on the University’s website.
“This is supported by our world-leading research in connected health and data analytics, as well as our innovative teaching practices.”
Catherwood explained that this technology will allow the university to expand its research in areas such as wearables, data analysis and connected healthcare.
The base station will track a range of remote data, including blood analysis; diabetes and heart rate results; livestock tracking; and chemical detection.
“This emerging technology offers enormous opportunities for innovation and discovery at Ulster University. We will use Sigfox enabled technology in our future research into wearable devices; remote data analysis and connected health platforms to further improve patient outcomes and transform the global healthcare sector,” he said.
He added: “Ulster University’s engineering students will benefit from the new base station as we plan to deliver dedicated modules on this emerging network. This will guarantee students first-hand experience of this next generation technology, helping them to thrive in careers in the fast-paced technology and engineering sectors.
“We are delighted to have the first base station installed at Ulster University, which will benefit not only researchers and students, but also Northern Ireland’s wider business community who can tap into its potential.”